Hong Kong government blames limited manpower, outdated computer system for delays in follow-ups on charities

Audit report earlier found Home Affairs Department did not send reminders in a timely way over submissions related to amounts raised during charity lottery events

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 12:13am

An outdated computer system and limited manpower are to blame for the government’s lack of follow-ups on charitable lottery sales, the public accounts committee of Hong Kong’s legislature heard on Friday.

Selling lottery tickets is one way for charity organisations to raise funds from the public, with donations collected through these activities amounting to an average of HK$86 million annually from 2012 to 2016.

But the city’s Home Affairs Department did not follow up with such groups over the amounts raised in a timely way, according to an audit report released early this year.

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The department advises lottery organisers to apply for a licence from the Entertainment Licensing Team under the Office of the Licensing Authority at least three weeks in advance.

Licensees are also required to submit five types of documents, which range from newspaper cuttings to audited annual financial statements, to the department within 10 days, 90 days or a year upon the completion of the event. The deadlines vary according to the type of document.

The report said that the audit commission examined 263 lottery events licensed by the department from 2012 to 2016. It found 523 late submission cases of four types of documents, involving a total of HK$345 million gross income raised for the organisations.

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In 10 cases of late submissions overdue for more than 180 days, the audit report found that the department had delayed or missed the issuance of reminders and warning letters.

At Friday’s hearing, Home Affairs Department director Janice Tse Siu-wa explained that the submissions were manually monitored by only two employees – an executive officer and a clerk – who were also in charge of sending out reminders and warning letters to licensees.

“We are [doing this] by hand, not computers,” Tse added. She also admitted the department had not checked the identities of those who signed off on the cash count records of lottery events.

“Supervision is mainly done on paper,” Tse said. “If there’s suspicion, we will transfer the case to law enforcement departments.”

Lawmakers urged Tse to upgrade the 18-year-old licensing information system and increase manpower if necessary. They also asked Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah to provide a summary of improvements before the committee submits its report on the audit report on July 12.